Tampa International Airport
Keep tabs on project outlays
The $2.3 billion expansion of Tampa International Airport, now in its third year of construction, is running into turbulence.
The first phase of the plan, which includes $1 billion for a new rental car facility and renovations to the main terminal, is behind schedule and over budget. Now, Florida state Sen. Tom Lee and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are calling for a state audit. They are right to do so. Whenever the state hands over billions of tax dollars, Floridians deserve to know how the money is being spent.
The first phase of the expansion, originally due to be completed this year, has been pushed back to 2018. And the project is experiencing cost overruns at a time when its sources of funding are in jeopardy. The airport has financed the project with a $195 million grant from the state and approximately $800 million in new bond debt, to be funded by increased parking rates, new fees on car rentals and existing sources of revenue like fees on airline tickets.
The revenue from all these sources is likely to disappoint. Passenger numbers at Tampa International grew only 0.6 percent last year — far short of the 2.7 percent annual growth the airport projected. Ticket sales, therefore, will probably fall short of expectations. Meanwhile, ridesharing services will cut into parking revenue and rental car fees.
Taxpayers are right to worry they will be on the hook for the shortfall. They might also ask why they are funding a nearly $1 billion rental car facility in the first place. Tourists may enjoy the convenience, and rental car companies will profit handsomely. But the average family is unlikely to see much benefit.
Florida's lawmakers should support auditing Tampa International Airport. Taxes ought to support core government services — not be wasted on special interests.
Chris Hudson, Tallahassee
The writer is the Florida state director of Americans for Prosperity.
Great day for good causes | May 4
Small nonprofit's success
First, thanks to the Times for your excellent reporting and for all you do in the community.
It was with great excitement that I read the article last week about Give Day Tampa Bay. As the director of Chabad of Clearwater, it was a great honor and a humbling experience that our center was the grand prize winner in the small nonprofit category. Considering we had 769 total donors, more than any nonprofit both small and large, I was surprised that there was no mention of our organization in the article.
Although the online edition of the article was later updated, out of respect to the record 769 donors to the campaign, as well as all the hardworking volunteers who made it happen, I feel it is necessary for the Times to inform all the print readers, as well, of this great accomplishment.
Printing this letter will partially do the job. Thank you.
Rabbi Levi Hodakov, director, Chabad of Clearwater